Advent of Jesus – Love

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

The advent of Jesus becomes for us the definition of love.

“Love is from God” (1 John 4:7). God created it, or more clearly, revealed it as his divine nature. John continued to write, “God is love” (4:8). Love is so essential to the character of God that love is the first and the second commandment, and the best way to sum up pretty much everything God has ever said.

The reason we love? It came from him to start with. “We love because he first loved us.” (4:19)

Simply put, without Jesus, we wouldn’t know love. A world without God would be a world without love.

Jesus demonstrates the sheer intensity of the love of God. Don’t miss the two-letter word in the famous memory verse: For God so loved the world…God loved us so much that he gave his son. That’s an awfully big “so” for such a little word.

Jesus loves us when we are unlovable. He demonstrates God’s incredible love. He defines it with his word and with is actions. He radiates what it really means. When we celebrate the advents of Jesus, we celebrate the love of God.

Advent of Jesus – Joy

Israel had been incredibly unfaithful to God. They had forgotten his commandments and his promises, but God never forgets. So God used men like Ezra and Nehemiah and even a king named Cyrus to give Israel another chance. They began to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and the temple within it. When they read the word of the law, all of the people wept. They saw the pain and suffering their own sin brought upon them.

But after the reading was completed, Nehemiah spoke to the nation. He said, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Despite all the reasons to be sad, Nehemiah promised that the joy God provides would strengthen the nation. Habakkuk said that even if everything good in his land should fail, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

What causes sadness and sorrow? The things that result from sin. Pain, death, separation, and fear.

What causes joy? Being in relationship with the author of light and life and love.

God’s joy is our strength, our fuel for living, our power for righteousness. Joy is part of the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians 5.

The advent of Jesus is powerful to give us real joy for living. Jesus addressed the very real hardships the disciples (and we!) would face. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy…So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:20-24)

Because of Jesus, no matter what sadness we face, we are fueled by indestructible joy.

Advent of Jesus: Peace

Isaiah painted a picture of something we all want to see. “Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever” (32:16-17)

The advent of Jesus heralds the coming of an age of peace. He is “wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

In a world of terrorism, doesn’t the advent of peace sound like good news?

In a time of division and political feuding, doesn’t the advent of peace refresh your heart?

In seasons of uncertainty and fear, doesn’t the advent of peace calm your soul?

The peace of Jesus is counter-intuitive. A disciple of Jesus enjoys peace most when the world is least peaceful. Perhaps why we call it “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, [which] will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7-9).

One of my favorite moments in the story of Jesus happened just after the resurrection. The disciples had locked themselves in a room because they were afraid. Their leader had been slaughtered. Their movement was over. Their own lives were at risk. Jesus appeared to them—the locked door bothered him no more than the sealed tomb did—and simply said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). The passage continues: “Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”

The calmest day without Jesus brings no peace. A storm with Jesus has no power.

Advent of Jesus – Hope

A long time ago, Bernard of Clairvaux wrote to remind believers of the three comings (Latin: advent) of Jesus. Jesus arrived in the flesh at Bethlehem, in our hearts daily, and in glory at the end of time. In the 13th-16th centuries, the church found the tradition of celebrating his arrival in Bethlehem and anticipating his future return during this season particularly helpful.

I find this season helpful, too. As materialism and secularization continue to increase in our world, choosing to remind myself of what it means that Jesus came in the flesh becomes even more important. Society wants me to focus on gifts. Advent reminds me to think about the giver.

In the Advent tradition, there are four gifts of Jesus that are celebrated in the four weeks leading up to Christmas: hope, peace, joy, and love. Without Jesus, these words would be hollow. With him, they explode with life and power.

Because of Jesus, we have hope. Hope is very different than wish. Wish is just a desire. Hope is joyful expectation.

Before Jesus, people lived “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12) Now, we “rejoice in hope” (Romans 12:12) because of our union with Christ.

In a world without Jesus, there is no hope. We are slaves to our sins and desires. We fight to be one of the strong who survive. We claw to maximize our short time on this planet. Suffering is calamity and pain knows no end.

But in a world with hope, the blackest of Fridays becomes good Friday. The cemetery is no longer a death sentence; it’s just an interruption. With Jesus, we never suffer alone. We have the promise of something better on the horizon. The advent of Jesus changes our lives by giving us hope. May we live in that hope each day!